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Do more side effects signal better breast cancer outcomes?

The occurrence of medication side effects in women who received endocrine treatment for breast cancer may indicate a decreased risk of cancer recurrence and act as a marker for treatment success.

The occurrence of medication side effects, such as vasomotor symptoms and arthritis, in women who received endocrine treatment for breast cancer may indicate a decreased risk of cancer recurrence and act as a marker for treatment success, according to a study published online Oct. 30 in The Lancet Oncology.

Jack Cuzick, PhD, of the University of London and colleagues examined the association between self-reported vasomotor or joint symptoms and breast cancer recurrence among 3,964 participants in the Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination (ATAC) trial.

Among the 37.5% of women reporting new vasomotor symptoms at the 3-month follow-up visit, recurrence of breast cancer was significantly lower than for those not reporting symptoms (223 during 10,752 women-years of follow-up vs. 366 during 11,573 women-years of follow-up). Similarly, among women reporting new joint symptoms, breast cancer recurrence was less frequent than for those not reporting symptoms (158 during 9,242 women-years of follow-up vs. 366 during 11,573 women-years of follow-up).

Cuzick J, Sestak I, Cella D, et al. Treatment-emergent endocrine symptoms and the risk of breast cancer recurrence: a retrospective analysis of the ATAC trial. Lancet Oncol. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70259-6.